Friday, June 26, 2009, 06:18 PM - Political developmentsThere's word today that Governor Schwarzenegger is threatening a third state employee furlough day.
Despite "user funding", only some SCIF employees are currently exempted from the
current two day furlough.
A three day furlough would further slow business at the state's Workers' Compensation
Appeals Boards. User funding is not saving the WCAB from pain.
As of Friday afternoon, the legislative impasse continues. In late afternoon remarks to the California Applicants Attorneys Association, State senator Mark DeSaulnier noted that "Dickens would be amazed if he came back to California now". DeSaulnier, the Chair of the Senate Industrial Relations Committee, noted that we currently have a "Winchester House" of government by initiatives that have led us to this crisis.
Also of interest: DeSaulnier noted that it is likely that Governor Schwarzenegger will not support the bill to extend the right to predesignate a doctor before a worker is injured.The right to predesignate sunsets at the end of 2009 unless it is extended by statute.
DeSaulnier has his hat in the ring for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Ellen Tauscher. Also running is Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who many disabled worker advocates feel played a role (as Insurance Commissioner) in creating a crisis mentality that led to the harsh 2004 workers' comp reforms.
In my next post I'll cover more from the Squaw Valley CAAA conference.
Thursday, June 25, 2009, 07:23 AM - Political developmentsIs California fatally dysfunctional?
If so, is the problem that we have too many people with too many needs that are too reliant on the state for help? That we've ramped up too many programs that we can't pay for?
Or that we haven't developed a workable revenue stream, since a large percentage of state income taxes are paid by very high earners whose income falls in times of economic challenge?
Here's one take on what's gone wrong.
"How California Became Ungovernable".
That's the thesis of Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine, a pair of experienced reporters who've covered the California political scene for decades.
As we sit on the verge of going to IOUs to pay the state's bills, their argument is worth sharing:
http://www.calbuzz.com/2009/06/how-cali ... overnable/
Upcoming: I'll soon be attending the CAAA Squaw Valley meetings. Check back for some live blogging from there.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 09:11 PM - Political developmentsThe sale of part of SCIF may really be on. That's the word today.
Times are bad for the state budget. But dismembering-or crippling-SCIF is a terrible idea, even if it's in the laudatory service of saving some other worthy state programs.
Kudos to J. Dale Debber for uncovering the story. It's a must read, and here's a link to his investigatory piece in the Workers' Comp Executive:
While I don't have independent confirmation of the alleged events as related by Debber, I suspect his analysis is accurate.
These are the players in Debber's piece, for those who want to put a face on the palace intrigue:
Susan Kennedy, Schwarzenegger Chief of Staff and "Democrat" insider:
Cynthia Bryant, Director of Office of Planning and Research:
http://www.opr.ca.gov/index.php?a=about ... ryant.html
Bryant was one of the lead negotiators for the Governor at the time of passage of the 2004 SB 899 reforms.
http://caobserver.blogspot.com/2006/01/ ... ratic.html
I'd love to post more information about this story as it unfolds. Readers who have more information can send it to me at email@example.com
Sunday, June 21, 2009, 11:34 AM - Political developmentsPETA is upset.
That's the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They're upset because Obama swatted a fly with gusto during an interview with journalist John Harwood. I must say his assertive swatting looked pretty good to me. The bigger question, it seems, is whether Obama can use some of that high but dwindling popularity to take on the herd of cats called Congress before the window to achieve healthcare reform closes.
Meanwhile, up in River City, Governor Schwarzenegger gave California Senate Pro-Tem a metal sculpture of bull testicles, presumably to highlight that it will take some cojones to solve the California budget chasm.
It was that kind of week.
In our workers' comp world, perhaps SCIF should take some swatting lessons from our President. But perhaps it's too late.
Like the pesky fly that keeps coming back, the tint of scandal continues to follow the State Compensation Insurance Fund. A new regime now runs SCIF, but the old regime is under the microscope.
A possible criminal microscope.
Who'd a-thunk there might be rapscallions in California's comp insurance industry?
Search warrants have been served at the offices of a former SCIF director, and more searches of other former personnel may follow. This could get very interesting.
Here's the L.A. Times piece on these developments:
http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-s ... 4915.story
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Thursday, June 18, 2009, 10:54 PM - Political developmentsAs I sit to write this, I'm aware that a lot of the recent columns are about death.
A requiem for the bill to increase permanent disability monies. An obit for California's vocational rehab.
And today, the apparent death of Wilkinson. Wilkinson?
Wilkinson was the decades old case (followed by a line of followup cases) that allowed successive injuries to the same body part to be rated as one injury rather than split into different ratings.
The policy rationale behind Wilkinson was that successive injuries often combined synergistically into a more serious level of disability, justifying a higher monetary recovery.
Opponents of Wilkinson derided the decision as allowing injured workers to receive "lucky bucks". A 30% disability would produce a higher monetary award than successive 15% awards.
Today, Wilkinson stands on life support. Several months ago the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a unanimous WCAB decision in Benson vs. Permanente which essentially ruled that the Wilkinson rule no longer applied due to the 2004 comp reform changes. The California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the 1st District's Benson ruling.
The California Supreme Court had ordered the 2nd District Court of Appeal to hear two cases involving the same issue. Those decisions are now rendered (though "unpublished", unlike Benson). The 2nd District reaches the same conclusion as the Benson court.
One case is Vilkitis v. WCAB:
The other is Forzetting vs. WCAB:
It's possible but unlikely that the Supreme Court will grant a hearing in either case. As a practical matter, the Wilkinson doctrine is on life support, and will die soon.
Injuries must now be rated successively. Splitting ratings up between a succession of smaller events rather than combining the rating will result in sharply reduced awards for some workers.
If there is a silver lining for disabled workers, it may be that Subsequent Injury Fund awards may be pursued more often. In an e -blast today, attorney Richard Jacobsmeyer claims that with the AMA rating many internal medical problems at a rather high level, in some circumstances SIF claims may become more viable (provided the SIF thresholds are met) , and predicts an uptick in SIF claims from many of the more sophisticated applicants attorneys.
(have a tip? an idea to share? you can e mail me at email@example.com)